The Apple TV is a good product. Airplay and screen mirroring are fantastic features.
But it could be a great product, it could take over the living rooms of many houses, but it probably won’t. There have been rumors that an enhanced apple TV or an actual Apple branded television will be released in 2014. The biggest potential for either of these products will be a third app store to go along with the iOS app store and the Mac app store.
The Apple TV app store could be a gamer paradise, an easy way for developers to publish amazing and innovative games without the gatekeepers of Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony, or even Steam. This open playing ground could revolutionize living room gaming the same way the iOS revolutionized portable gaming. But there are three things Apple will need to take the gaming market by storm:
I’m not talking about Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft corporations, Apple doesn’t need them. I’m talking about their controllers, the controllers people like to game with and already own.
People in the market to buy an apple TV for gaming will most likely have plenty of these controllers already in their homes. If gamers could easily use their existing controllers with an apple TV system it would be a no brainer; 4 player couch co-op ready to go. Exciting and novel multiplayer games would be incredibly fun to try out and it would be the cheapest game system by far.
The problem is Apple, for better or worse (and in this case worse), wants to have a simple and standard input. And their solution to a game controller will be this:
For the majority of video games you would want to play on a couch these are terrible game controllers. Sure it could be fun for a game that only used tilt controls (like an updated Super Monkey Ball), but that’s about the only game that will work well with a touch screen controller. All the games that work well with a touch screen you’ll probably just want to play without the Apple TV.
You will need physical buttons to truly enjoy twitchy arcade games that will shine on this system.
Wait you might say, Apple will now allow you to buy new iOS compatible controllers that you can plug into an iphone or ipod touch to use as real game controller.
There’s a couple of problems with this:
1. people won’t want to spend extra money on these controllers, which currently cost around $100 a pop.
2. The battery life issue will be a pain, you’ll have to constantly charge these controllers, and while this is true of all controllers, you’ll also have to worry about the charge of your iPhone.
3. If you wanted to play a game with four people, the likelihood you’ll have four compatible iPhones and iPod touches all charged and ready to go is not as likely as you may think.
Let’s break down the costs, circa early 2014:
Enhanced Apple TV with stronger processor, let’s say it costs between $99-199
With add-on controllers 4X$100= $400
Plus the cost of 4 iphones/ipod touches = Cheapest version would be four 5th generation iPod touches at $299 x 4 = $1200
Total cost for living room 4 player fun = At least $1700
Let’s compare with the prices of PlayStation & Xbox with four controllers
PS4= $ 399 + 4 controllers x $60 = $640
Xbox One= $499 + 4 controllers x $60 = $740
If you could use your own controllers that you already have, the Apple TV would destroy the competition when it came to price.
Now one could argue that as a single player experience the Apple TV comes out far ahead in price, and this is true, but trust me when I say that multiplayer is where this system will truly shine. The living room is where people want to share experiences, otherwise it’s simpler just to play a game on your computer or touchscreen device. To take over the living room not only should apple support existing controllers from a variety of systems, they should also make sure that game developers program their games to use these readily available controllers properly, or else they won’t be able to be distributed to the Apple TV app store.
I know apple won’t do this, and I also know the apple TV as a gaming device will still be a modest success, it just won’t be a game charger, it just won’t be insanely great.